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Finnish freelances fight

FREELANCE journalists - around 350 of them including their supporters - held a colourful and noisy demonstration in mid-May outside the headquarters of major Finnish media corporation Sanoma Group, which is trying to impose a new contract on journalists working for its Sanoma News operation.

Sanoma News is one of continental Europe’s magazine publishers. It runs Finland’s biggest newspaper group, a photo agency, a TV channel and book publishing arm, covering 20 countries.

Sanoma News informed its freelance writers, photographers and illustrators of a new freelance agreement in April. This included exclusive rights in all media (including those as yet unknown), acceptance of full legal liability, syndication rights, rights to modify works and publish them in another form, and payment terms longer than the Finnish norm of 14 days.

Appalled, 545 freelances refused to sign, and authorised the Union of Journalists in Finland to negotiate with Sanoma on their behalf. The freelances were supported by the union chapter for Sanoma News journalists employed on permanent staff contracts. Sanoma News then announced it planned to “cease co-operation” with freelances who had not signed the new agreement.

Heikki Jokinen, freelance journalist and member of the union’s leadership, said in a speech at the demo that Sanoma News' “proposed freelance agreement does not follow the general practice for freelance agreements in Finland, which have traditionally been based on negotiation.” At the end of May Finnish freelances were still waiting to see whether Sanoma would negotiate with their union.

Meanwhile, journalists' unions around Europe are supporting the Finnish union in opposing a review of the country's authors' rights law that would give away staff journalists' rights in their work to their employer.

Last modified: 1 June 2009 - © 2009 contributors
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